Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Florida: The Aftermath

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The final analysis on the aftermath of Hurricane Irma isn’t in yet. In fact, it won’t be in for a long time. Why? Hurricane Irma isn’t over yet. Rain is still falling in northern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and….well…rain will  fall in other states due to a low pressure that was Irma where hurricane rains should  never fall. Sandy already grabbed the title of Superstorm and, indeed, it was, so what are we going to call Irma? Surely, it is deserving of a title of something other than “hurricane.” Maybe phenomenon? Natural disaster? I like “force majeure.” Translated “a superior force.” There has never been another hurricane like it in recorded history.

I’m not going to quote figures in this post. I will only say that millions of people had to be evacuated from their homes in Florida and some in other states. I don’t even want to guess at the dollars in property damage not only in South Florida but in northern Florida where such damage was unexpected. As far as the Keys are concerned, the situation there is almost more than I can bear to think about. Rescue and recovery are on their way to some of the Keys that are literally underwater and others with terrible damage. I fear hearing the death toll. I only hope more evacuated than we think. Property damage in the Keys? Unbelievable. I honestly believe we will never know the death toll from Hurricane Irma.

Photos of flooding from Hurricane Irma

Millions of people experienced high levels of stress and anxiety as we watched Irma plod across the Atlantic. We tried to secure belongings and figure out where to go and what to do on a level never seen before. The situation in Houston with Hurricane Harvey was bad enough. Hurricane Irma affected an entire state. More than one state. A natural disaster? Certainly. Some say a natural disaster on a level never before seen in the United States.

From my point of view, a week of my life is gone. Lost to Hurricane Irma, The Weather Channel, and every news channel I could find. I wrote very little, my primary occupation now. I seldom left the vicinity of a computer or television. Thank goodness for my good friends who kept me company and provided sympathy. I wouldn’t have survived the week without them. I have a personal stake in Florida, but my stake is more the people I’ve met in Florida than my own property. More the “old Florida” I’ve grown to know and love than any tourist trap or attraction. I grieved for Florida this past week and will for a long time to come as it will take a long time for Florida to rebuild and recover. I hope to be there, at least some, to help.

The frightening part, at least for me, is that hurricane season isn’t over yet. I have to believe that any other hurricane will be only a pale reminder of Irma. I shouldn’t say that. The oceans are warm, too warm. Monsters are growing in them.

 

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Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Approaching Florida

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Hurricane Irma is still a Category 5 hurricane at 2:00 a.m., Friday, September 8, with winds at 160 mph. The winds of this historic hurricane stayed at 185 mph for an astonishing 35 hours. Just because they have dropped to 160 does not mean that Hurricane Irma is not as strong as ever. It is still a strong Category 5 hurricane, showing no real signs of weakening. It is currently lashing the Turks and Caicos islands, moving toward the southeastern Bahamas. Puerto Rico did not sustain a direct hit, but it did sustain heavy damage. Irma is approaching South Florida and is expected to arrive there by Saturday evening, with tropical storm force winds possibly arriving earlier.

Since I blogged #HurricaneIrma last night, it has done massive damage to island nations. Hurricane warnings are up for portions of Florida, Cuba, Haiti, and all of the  Bahamas. By morning, hurricane warnings will likely be up for all or most of the state of Florida. Storm surge warnings are up for all of the Bahamas, South Florida, parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and parts of Cuba. Surge amounts vary from 3-5 feet to 15-20 feet, but it is an inexact science.

The projected track of Hurricane Irma has changed since I blogged last night. It is no longer expected to track up the east coast of Florida. Instead, most models put Irma tracking directly up the middle of the peninsula of Florida. Since Irma is such a large hurricane in geographic size, wider than the Florida peninsula, it will affect most of both coasts. Barrier islands off both coasts are under mandatory evacuation orders.

The impact of Hurricane Irma’s effect on the coasts depends on when it makes a northward turn. The closer it gets to the eastern coast of Florida before it makes its turn, the more it will also impact the Gulf coast. If it doesn’t turn until it gets closer to the middle of the state, then both coasts will be impacted. The northeastern side of the hurricane will be most severely impacted with the western side less so. However,  hurricane force winds extend in every direction 75 miles from the center of the hurricane.

Writer’s Note: Once again, I find myself speechless. There seems to be nothing at all to add except this. To anyone reading this still on a barrier island off the Florida coast, if you can still evacuate, please consider doing so. To everyone else in my adopted home for six months of the year, please stay safe.

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – Leeward Islands

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Hurricane Irma has set a record. It has had sustained winds of over 180 miles per hour for the longest period of time of any Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. It has left a horrible path of destruction in its wake through the Caribbean islands. As I write this blog post, it is passing north of Puerto Rico which seems to have escaped the worst of it with the eye off to the north.

The small island of Barbudo has been totally destroyed. From what we can determine, almost every house there has been either totally destroyed or very heavily damaged. The island has only around 1500 people. A cell tower reinforced by steel was snapped in half. The islands of St. Martin and St. Thomas have sustained heavy damage. St. Martin is said to be 95 percent destroyed by observers. Communication is down and full information is not available at the time of this post. The islands of Hispanola and Cuba are next on the agenda. Photos of Hurricane Irma damage

At this time, the path of Hurricane Irma has slightly changed. It is now projected by most forecasters to go up the Atlantic coast of Florida and hug the coast of the Carolinas. The cone of hurricane force and tropical storm force winds extend all the way west to Apalachicola, Florida on the panhandle. The storm is 350 miles wide in one direction and 500 miles wide in the other direction. A few forecasters still think it will veer off into the Gulf of Mexico and go north along the west coast of Florida.

At some point, most forecasters expect Irma to take the turn north. At the time of this post, they thought they were seeing some changes in the eye wall called an eye wall replacement cycle. They think it might be indicative of some weakening, but we will not know that until morning.

Writer’s Note: After viewing some photos of damage to the Caribbean islands, I am shaken. I can’t add personal thoughts to this post, but I encourage you to look at the photos especially if you are in the projected path of the storm. Please evacuate if you are.

Blogging #HurricaneIrma – First Day

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The monster came from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The oceans were getting hotter. They were creating these monsters. As it traveled across the Atlantic, the monster gained strength. It was called #HurricaneIrma. Before it reached the Caribbean Sea, it was the strongest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic. If there had been a Category 6, it would have been that. But there wasn’t. Wind gusts over 200 miles per hour. Sustained winds at 185.

I couldn’t bear to look away from the weather maps. It was like watching a train wreck. Maybe like watching the end of a dream. That monster was on a path that seemed to collide with my magical island off the coast of Florida. Unless a miracle happened, it would definitely collide with the state of Florida. If it didn’t weaken, I couldn’t bear to think of what would happen to the big cities. To the people in the big cities. I hoped they all had left, but I knew they hadn’t.

Then, there was my island. This winter was to be the first winter I would spend on my island. I lived at sea level. Not a half mile from the coast. Wind and storm surge were the enemies of my home on the island. Could it survive this storm? Winds of 200 mph unless it slowed down? The answer was no. It could not. It was only a small place. Not that secure. Not that steady. Not hurricane-proof. But enough for me to spend the winter. I knew I would probably not have that chance.

I’d been going to the island for eight years. I’d made friends. People I care about. What about them and their homes? I couldn’t bear to think of it. Of them. As I watched the monster draw closer, it became about them. Some had lived on the island all of their lives. Others for many years. I was a newcomer. Some were going to ride it out on the island. Some were leaving. The thought of those staying on the island scared me to death.

It’s 4:30 a.m. I can’t sleep tonight. My island, my friends, my new home are all in danger. I may never get to spend a winter there. What will it be like after this storm? What will Florida be like?

Stay tuned. I’m blogging #HurricaneIrma.

Travel Florida: Anticipating My Return

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Even though it’s still hot where I live in Kentucky, there are signs everywhere of fall coming. The summer flowers are finished and even some of the fall flowers are looking faded. I live in the forest and a few leaves are starting to fall and they are already colorful. Fall coming at my home in Kentucky means that I’m starting to look forward to going to my home in Florida, on my magical island, for the winter.

I’ve been very busy during this summer in Kentucky. I’ve done a lot of writing and research and very little else. Writing and researching at least twelve hours a day keeps me busy. By the time that twelve hours is over, any writer reading this knows you are ready to drop and fall into your bed. I take breaks. I take my new puppy outdoors and we play. She’s in training so we work on her training exercises. I also take breaks to talk to my friends who have kept me company and great company they are. The summer has passed very fast for me.

Even though I’m still writing and researching and will be until right before we leave here for the winter, I find my mind drifting to my island and my little home there. Even though I love my home in Kentucky, I also love my island. I will be ready to leave here two months from now. The winter months are so wonderful there. The island is still very much “old Florida.” I think part of the reason for that is because it does not have much sandy beach. Any little bits of beach you find, however, are nice, smooth sand and not particularly grainy .

Even though there are a lot of snowbirds on my island, and I am one of them, that certainly doesn’t ruin it for me. Yes, the traffic is bad. Yes, there are waiting lines in the restaurants. But, some of the same snowbirds come back every year and have become my friends. Some of the locals have become my friends and I value all of their friendships.

I miss the ocean! I miss the pier. I miss the wonderful seafood. There is so much about that magical island that I miss. Mostly I miss the way that I feel there. My soul feels like it has found its home.

 

Three Things Thursday

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Three Things Thursday is just a fun little exercise about things we have been grateful  for during the past week. Here goes!

ONE

Going to the pier in Bokeelia, Florida for the last time until fall! I love the ocean and this pier is awesome. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to go to this pier, visit with the wonderful people there, see the fish and birds, and photograph the sunrises and sunsets.

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TWO

Learning about the tropical birds of South Florida. I won’t see these guys again until fall. This is an egret sitting on the banks of the lake behind our place.

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An Egret at the edge of the lake at our house

THREE

Getting back home to Kentucky after being gone for awhile to our island in the sun in Florida. This is a bur oak tree that used to be in our back yard.

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Travel Florida: The End of My Stay

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Time to secure our lodgings and go home to Kentucky for the summer, although I always hate to leave Pine Island. I will have to admit I can see why some people leave by April 30. It’s pretty hot here now, 92 degrees; very humid, and they’ve started using a helicopter to spray for mosquitoes right over my head. It’s even getting hard for the A/C that cools our domicile to carry the load. When that happens, you know it’s hot! So we are trying to get ready to leave which may happen Friday; if not, then Saturday.

Tonight, I went down to the pier to see the beautiful ocean once more before I leave it for a few months, but I’ll be back to our island in the sun this coming winter. I also wanted to see our new friends, Billy and Otto. It was important to me to say goodbye to them before departing for the “north.” As you go through the world, you never know where you are going to make friends. A fishing pier, I suppose, for a girl like me is an odd place. I went out on the pier to take pictures of the sunset. I came back with pictures of the sunsets, the nightbirds, and new friends. A pretty good deal! I look so forward to seeing them both when the “season” starts in the fall of this year. Continue reading

Travel Florida: An Ordinary Life

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Last night, we went to eat dinner at a new place (for us). The Old Island Seafood Market. A working seafood market that is also a restaurant. You can see the pictures above. It is in Matlacha, Florida, the island adjacent to Pine Island and one of my favorite places in the world. As you walk in, they have a sign that advertises themselves as a taste of “Old Florida.”

If you don’t know about “Old Florida,” it’s just the Florida that existed before the tourists came. The casual Florida lifestyle. The real Florida. Don’t get me wrong. Florida loves its tourists. They support its economy. But, if you can find one of these pockets of “Old Florida,” take advantage of it.

Back to Matlacha and the Old Island Seafood Market. Behind the market and restaurant is the marina where fisherman pull in with their catch and unload. It is a true, working fish market. As for the restaurant, you can eat outside or you can eat sort of inside. Let’s just call it open air. We ate in the open air part where you look over into the water of the marina. There were manatees everywhere. There was an osprey sitting on a high post just waiting for a good fish to pass by. South Florida’s wildlife fascinates me.

The menu. Yum. All the good fish of the area. Grouper. Snapper. Oysters. Great salads. Shrimp. But, they don’t stop there. They have the rough and tumble stuff. Alligator, mullet, frog legs. A seafood chowder I am sure is delicious and I plan to eat it soon.

The reason we ended up at the Old Island Seafood Market is because I became ill a few days ago. Nothing serious and it will pass but I didn’t feel like cooking for myself.  That’s why you haven’t heard much from me for the last few days and may not for a few days to come.

Enjoy the photos! This is a wonderful place to eat!

Travel Florida: Food, Fun, and Friends

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Beautiful home near Pineland Marina

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Hideaway Grill and Sushi Bar

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Sunset on Windy Night from Bokeelia Pier

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Sunset on Cloudy Night from Bokeelia Pier

It’s been a week or so since my last installment of “Travel Florida.” I think that’s been because we’ve just been living the life here on this island in the sun. We’ve also been exhausted from moving our belongings into  the little place where we are living until we buy a permanent place! I guess I’ve also been resting up! I feel better now!

It’s Easter Sunday today. Something springs to mind. I’ve been amazed at how at home I feel here. I don’t consider myself a religious person. A spiritual person, yes. I thought of this quote, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” from Matthew. That’s how I feel about the people I’ve met from Pine Island. I’ve met a lot of people and I’ve felt very welcomed.

We’ve had such fun here! Moving even a portion of your household is very hard work, but it’s been just as much fun as work. We’ve taken days off to explore some of the different places on Pine Island. We’ve done some house hunting. In our case, that may be condo hunting as I’m not anxious to take on a house again. We have explored the natural environment as well as the man-made environment. We’ve eaten in some day; eaten out other days. The food available here never ceases to amaze me.

Let me give you some examples. First, food. We’ve eaten brunch several times at A Perfect Cup in Matlacha, one of the five communities on/near Pine Island. Matlacha is actually the neighboring island. I’ve taken some time out to go to A Perfect Cup in the mornings and do some writing. That would not be possible at the height of the tourist season as it would be Standing Room Only (if that). We have also gone to A Perfect Cup for brunch and they simply must have the best omelets in the world.

As far as dinner is concerned, there are so many good places to eat, I couldn’t pick one if I tried, so I won’t. I’ll just tell you where I’ve been. This past week, we opted for sushi and went to Ms. Kay’s sushi place on the road to Bokeelia, Hideaway Grill and Sushi Bar. We’ve also eaten dinner at our old stand-by place, Woody’s, in St. James City, where I always have conch fritters and a great salad. Having conch reminds me of Key West. Woody’s conch is just as good.

Next, fun. Everything is fun! House hunting is great fun. We’re drawn toward Bokeelia as a community because we do want a condo and there are a lot of nice condos there. We are still trying to get our bearings so we’re only looking from the outside right now. There is never a lot of property for sale on Pine Island. People don’t seem to leave! We will take our time and hope the right thing pops up at the right time.

I’m enjoying running around taking pictures. I love to photograph the wildlife. The exotic vegetation….well….exotic to me. The ocean and the sunrises and sunsets. One thing we find to be great fun is going to the Bokeelia Fishing Pier at sunset and joining others there to watch the sun go down. There is nothing like a sunset from that pier. In fact, there is nothing like that pier. We’ve met fine people who we hope will become great friends.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Travel Florida! Watch this space.

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An Egret at the edge of the lake at our house

Travel Florida: The Goats of Ft. Myers and more


Yes, goats. Real, live goats. I’m not using the word goats to mean anything else. The goats are those you see in the pictures above. Let me tell you the story.

We were eating lunch at a restaurant on a main street in Ft. Myers, FL. As we left the restaurant, I looked up and realized that across six lanes of traffic, there was a large field. A pasture-like area that looked like a farm. A farm? On a main street in a big Florida city? Sure enough, I was right. I walked to the curb and it was a farm with some sort of animals grazing in the pasture. You can see from the picture above that the animal was goats. An entire herd of them! The story doesn’t end here.

We drove across the road and pulled in a small parking area by the pasture’s fence. I got out of the car and the whole herd came running toward me. Many stuck their heads through the fence. They looked well-cared for. I looked around. There was a small barn that said “Pitts Farm Market” on it. There was no vegetable or fruit stand around. Everything appeared closed, except there was this pasture full of goats! 

When I got back to my house, I looked up Pitts Farm Market online. It seems it did once exist but has long since been closed. The mystery is, “Who owns the goats?” 

Who takes care of the goats? Why are they still in a pasture in the middle of Ft. Myers, Florida? On land that has to be incredibly valuable. Don’t ask me. I just live here.